LONDON — The British Broadcasting Corp. will be celebrating its 75th anniversary with a lineup of special programs. But the feel-good celebration has run into controversy with a much-hyped warts-and-all history of the pubcaster. “Auntie — The Inside Story of the BBC” stops in 1987, the year the present director-general, John Birt, joined the org.
“We wanted the program to be a history and not current affairs,” said Will Wyatt, chief exec of BBC Broadcast. “We’ll come back and do the recent period before very long, in three to four years, perhaps.”
“Auntie,” a four-part docu made by independent producer 3BM, gained access to confidential BBC archives detailing, among other things, internal turf battles and the pubcaster’s infamous clashes with the Thatcher government. Those clashes played a key part in Birt’s appointment.
Commentators have expressed disappointment that the Birt years, some of the most controversial in the broadcaster’s checkered history, are being ignored. This is particularly irksome because up to now, the BBC refused to allow cameras inside its own corridors of power.
The docu will, however, provide details of the early years of the Beeb, created by John Reith, a God-fearing Scot alleged to have dismissed staff who were known adulterers or homosexuals. Under his regime, secretaries were sent home for not wearing stockings.
Appropriately radio, rather than TV fare, will dominate the nostalgia binge. This reflects the pubcaster’s beginnings, back in Nov. 14, 1922, with sound-only broadcasts. But so as not to appear out of step with the final years of the 20th century, the BBC is releasing a 75th-anniversary CD-ROM chronicling its life and times — a giveaway for U.K. high schools at a cost of about $160,000 to the license payer.